The registered nurses at both Cape Cod and Falmouth Hospitals, who are affiliated with the Massachusetts Nurses Association and National Nurses United (MNA/NNU), plan to conduct two informational pickets on Thursday, December 11 over their concerns that hospital management is aiming to implement several changes to the way that nursing care at CCH is delivered — changes they say jeopardize patient safety.
What: Two informational pickets
When: Thursday, Dec. 11:
7 – 9 a.m. at Falmouth Hospital
2 – 4 p.m. at Cape Cod Hospital
Where: Falmouth Hospital, 100 Ter Huen Drive in Falmouth
Cape Cod Hospital, 27 Park Street in Hyannis
The changes — which management has presented as proposals in the nurses’ current, laborious contract talks — have become a major sticking point between the two parties and have caused contract negotiations to exceed the 20-session mark. A federal mediator took part in the last negotiation session, but the nurses, who are concerned for both their patients and the future of their nursing practice, committed to the Dec. 11 informational picket in the hope that public awareness and grassroots advocacy can help them make some headway at the table.
The key issues that have led the RNs to take to the streets include mandatory overtime, on-call, and floating:
-- Mandatory overtime, which is an illegal way of staffing a hospital, leads to exhausted and overworked RNs being forced to care for patients who deserve the care of an alert, rejuvenated nurse. While a law was passed in 2012 to prohibit hospitals from working excessive hours beyond their scheduled shift, management continues to understaff its units, regularly forcing nurses to work overtime, in direct violation of the law. Numerous studies have found that nurses working excessive overtime are more likely to make medical errors that can harm patients.
-- On-call is a staffing technique that allows the hospital to have as few nurses in the building as possible, while other nurses are scheduled to be on stand-by … ready to come in as quickly as possible should management decide more nurses are needed. The result is that there are never enough RNs in the building to provide appropriate care for patients, while depriving nurses of down time away from the hospital to rest and take care of their own families. Management wants to use this ill-conceived staffing strategy at CCH during peak summer months on its medical/surgical floor(s).
-- Floating is another staffing technique that leads to highly skilled RNs who are trained to work in one area of a hospital being forced, on their regular shift, to work on a different floor of a hospital where they are not as skilled or prepared.
The RNs have made it clear to CCH management at each of its 21 negotiation sessions that all three practices that they are proposing and/or insisting upon maintaining are dangerous for both patients and nurses, and that staffing a hospital properly is the best way to guarantee a patient’s safety.